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Cooperative ERP Life-cycle Knowledge Management

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Strategic alliances between ERP software vendors, their implementation partners and clients, for knowledge sharing and integrated knowledge management across the ERP life-cycle, hold promise for leveraging scarce expertise and human resources, thereby streamlining implementation and promoting growth of the market. SAP's significant market presence offers a unique opportunity to encourage such a tripartite ERP knowledge management framework. This industry-academe collaborative study will account for existing knowledge management facilities, approaches and technology; explore alternative responsibility and role sharing scenarios; define a broad system architecture; and propose strategies to promote the framework across SAP, its clients and partners.
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
Cooperative ERP Life-cycle Knowledge Management
Guy G. Gable*
Judy E. Scott**
Tom D. Davenport**
* Information Systems Management Research Centre
Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, Australia 4001
g.gable@qut.edu.au
** Graduate School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712-1175
jescott@mail.utexas.edu
Abstract
Strategic alliances between ERP software vendors, their implementation partners and clients,
for knowledge sharing and integrated knowledge management across the ERP life-cycle, hold
promise for leveraging scarce expertise and human resources, thereby streamlining imple-
mentation and promoting growth of the market. SAP’s significant market presence offers a
unique opportunity to encourage such a tripartite ERP knowledge management framework.
This industry-academe collaborative study will account for existing knowledge management
facilities, approaches and technology; explore alternative responsibility and role sharing
scenarios; define a broad system architecture; and propose strategies to promote the frame-
work across SAP, its clients and partners.

Keywords: knowledge management, ERP, packaged software, knowledge links, organizational
memory, human resource management, consultant management, relationship management
INTRODUCTION
A new class of packaged application software has emerged over the past decade, ostensibly
consolidating under a single banner, a multi-billion dollar industry that marries the world’s
fourth largest software vendor – SAP (and their competitors) with the world’s largest
management consulting organizations. Generally called enterprise resource planning systems
(ERP), SAP’s client/server software package - R/3, offers the potential to integrate the
complete range of an enterprise’s processes and functions in order to present a holistic view
of the business operations from a single information and IT architecture.
In a recent reorganisation, SAP’s education and learning division was elevated when the
international director of Education and Learning was promoted to head a new business unit
titled “Knowledge Management.” The new unit has a mandate to integrate and rationalise
education and learning activities and practices across the world regions and across the three
key players involved in R/3 life-cycle support – namely SAP, the implementation partner
(typically a large consulting firm) and the client.
A major SAP development regionally has been the advent of Sapient College, a re-naming
and extension of the Australian Education and Learning Division. Though SAP Australia face
unique relationships with clients and implementation partners in the Australasian region,
Sapient College’s growing and innovative activities have attracted the interest of their Asian,
North American and European counterparts and many of their initiatives are now being
emulated abroad.
R/3 sales in Australia have grown from $33M in 1995 to $175M in 1997 with SAP
forecasting Australian organisations will invest around $1 billion in R/3 implementations in
1998 ($250M on R/3). With the dramatic success of R/3, demand for ERP implementation
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
and support resources continues to far outstrip supply. Turnover and poaching of staff is
rampant, often causing implementation delays and cost increases. Also, with the loss of these
skills and knowledge, the client may be poorly equipped post-implementation, to further
evolve their business processes, R/3 system and organisation in response to a continually
changing environment and to derive advantage from new R/3 releases. SAP and its partners
face similar concerns over ERP ‘knowledge drain’.
Implementing ERP is for many organisations the largest project they have ever undertaken
entailing the largest potential benefits and possibly the largest potential risks. Many
organisations underestimate the magnitude of ERP implementation. Thomas Davenport
(Davenport, 1996d) suggests that ‘mega-packages [like R/3] require a higher level of
organizational change than for other types of systems … firms typically need to change their
business processes, organizational structures and even business strategies’.
Three related problems of concern for Sapient College are driving this study: (1) Rapidly
changing technology and organization philosophy demand quite new R/3-related roles; (2)
There exists a serious dearth of R/3 expertise internationally and for Australia in particular;
and (3) The market size for R/3 is constrained by the people costs of implementation
(consultants, staff, training and education).
There is thus strong motivation for better leveraging ERP implementation knowledge and
making this knowledge available to those involved in the ongoing evolution of the ERP sys-
tem. “Having made costly errors by disregarding the importance of knowledge, many firms
are now struggling to gain a better understanding of what they know, what they need to
know, and what to do about it” (Davenport 1998b). Davenport cites examples of dramatic
savings through investment in knowledge management at Hewlett Packard, Texas Instru-
ments and IBM, Ernst & Young, Andersen Consulting and McKinsey & Co., to name a few.
Firms such as Dow Chemical, Scandia, McKinsey, Ernst & Young, IBM and SAP have ap-
pointed ‘Chief Knowledge Officers’ (CKO) to oversee the knowledge resources of the firm.
Research firm Dataquest Inc (Dataquest 1998) estimates that by 1999 corporations will spend
$4.5 billion to better leverage their knowledge resources. “We strongly believe that the way
firms generate and pass on knowledge..creates the continuity that allows particular firms to
thrive over time .. that studies of organizational knowledge will make an important
contribution to understanding sources of long-term success (Davenport 1998b)”.
Given this importance and interest, the market for knowledge management tools and methods
is growing and vendors of all manner of information-oriented products and services are intro-
ducing new “knowledge management” offerings or re-labeling their existing offerings as
“knowledge-management systems” (e.g. from intranet development tools to document man-
agement systems to search engines to implementation methodologies and groupware). New
concepts and frameworks are required to interrelate revolutionary changes in the way knowl-
edge workers create, communicate and manage knowledge, in order for knowledge manage-
ment systems to effectively improve enterprise knowledge sharing.
R/3-related work contributes the largest proportion of total revenues for several of the
world’s major consulting companies. Having made substantial investments in their staff
(fundamental R/3 training for a new consultant costs $75,000), implementation methods and
tools, industry software templates (pre-configured R/3) and related R&D and training
facilities, and in the face of continuing difficulties attracting sufficient and appropriate R/3
consultants, SAP’s large implementation partners have much to gain from deploying
knowledge management systems aimed at further leveraging their existing ERP investment.
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
All 3 key players stand to benefit from effective ERP knowledge management. SAP seeks to
redress negative perceptions that R/3 implementation duration and cost is difficult to manage
and to improve customer support and satisfaction; the consulting firms seek to streamline
implementation and share in the savings with clients; and both SAP and consultants seek to
increase the size of the ERP market through reduced costs and increased benefits to clients.
Also, to the extent SAP and its partners can capture key knowledge during implementation,
they will be well placed to further support clients throughout the ERP life-cycle.
Much can be learned from studying ERP knowledge management developments in SAP’s
implementation partners and from analysing further potential. Being ‘knowledge
organisations’, not surprisingly several of these firms are already highly active in knowledge
management. In example, McKinsey & Co. spends 10% of revenues on knowledge
management (Davenport 1998b). Ernst & Young spends 6% of revenues on knowledge
management and measures the amount of knowledge it reuses in the form of proposals,
presentations and deliverables and the contributions of its knowledge repository to closing
sales. They have facilitators of 22 different knowledge networks, managers of several new
knowledge-oriented organizations that create or distribute knowledge, a CKO, and several
new committees to prioritize knowledge projects and set knowledge strategy" (Davenport
1998a). For some large consulting companies, R/3 expertise and related knowledge
management represents the largest investment they have ever made.
Innovative clients too have developed ERP knowledge management practices worthy of
study. In example, the Financial Information Systems Branch (FISB), Queensland Treasury,
lead agency on the implementation of R/3 across Queensland Government have developed an
array of methods, tools, techniques, policies, education and training and vehicles of
communication in support of that ongoing effort.
THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS
The philosophical inquiry of knowledge, known as “epistemology”, reveals that knowledge
has its theoretical foundations in philosophy (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995). The ideas of
various philosophers have been recast in the language of the design of inquiring systems
(Churchman 1971). Recently, Churchman’s Leibnizian, Lockean, Kantian and Hegelian in-
quirers have been recast in the language of the design of inquiring organizations (Courtney,
Croasdell and Paradice 1996), and have been used to develop an understanding of human ca-
pabilities critical for knowledge creation in inquiring organizations (Malhotra 1997).
The theory of knowledge creation distinguishes between tacit and explicit knowledge
(Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995). Tacit knowledge is difficult to articulate and encode, and con-
sequently difficult to transfer (Winter 1987). Incorporating knowledge creation and knowl-
edge transfer, knowledge management has evolved from organizational learning (OL) theo-
ries (Davenport 1998). Yet there is no unifying theory, despite the fact that OL is addressed
in a wide range of academic disciplines – from economics, organization, innovation, and
management studies – (Dodgson 1993, Fiol and Lyles 1985). Nevertheless, much of the lit-
erature distinguishes between higher and lower level learning. Higher level learning (Fiol and
Lyles 1985) is also called double-loop learning (Argyris and Schon 1978), explorative
(March 1991), and discontinuous organizational learning (McKee 1992). Double-loop learn-
ing is associated with revolutionary product innovations, knowledge creation and creativity
(March 1991, McKee 1992, Nonaka 1994). For example, from challenging the status quo,
double-loop learning can generate best practices, that become a core capability and remain so
unless becoming routine transforms them to a core rigidity (Leonard-Barton 1995).
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
Cooperative knowledge management across firms has its theoretical foundations in collabo-
ration, alliance, strategic and partnership studies. Knowledge links, are a form of strategic al-
liance that gives organizations access to the skills and capabilities of a partner and opportu-
nity to create new capabilities together (Badaracco 1991). However, history and prior capa-
bilities determine an organization’s absorptive capacity for new knowledge (Cohen and
Levinthal 1990). The purpose of a partnership is to improve a firm’s capabilities and re-
sources when there is a perceived deficiency or opportunity (Badaracco 1991, Borys and
Jemsion 1989, Eisenhardt and Schoonhoven 1996, Hamel 1991, Lasher, Ives and Jarvenpaa
1991). Motivated to complement their core capabilities, firms form learning collaborations
(Hamel 1991). Some criteria for finding a suitable partner include assessment of strategic
compatibility, trust and complementarity of resources and skills (Kanter 1994).
Although knowledge is a strategic asset (Eisenhardt and Schoonhoven 1996, Winter 1987),
embedded or tacit knowledge is difficult to transfer without trust and a close relationship at
all levels of the organizations (Badaracco 1991, Winter 1987). These relationships take time
to develop (Foley 1996, Henderson 1990). Time reduces anxieties and replaces stereotypes
with a more varied view (Kanter 1994), and shared experiences build trust and transfer com-
plex, ambiguous, and tacit information (Bartness and Cerny 1993, Gable 1996, Nohria and
Eccles 1992, Nonaka 1994, Sproull and Keisler 1991, 1995).
This study breaks new ground in seeking to integrate across multiple disciplines under the
banner of knowledge management. The study benefits particularly from the marrying of the
three authors’ prior work on process and knowledge management (Davenport) consultant en-
gagement success factors (Gable) and knowledge links and inter-organizational processes
(Scott). Following is a brief summary of the authors’ related prior research in these 3 areas.
Process management and knowledge management - Professor Davenport authored the best-
selling book on Process Innovation: Reeingineering Work Through Information Technology
(1993b) in 1993. Many of the examples in the book were drawn from his experiences at the
consulting firms Ernst and Young, McKinsey and CSC Index. Several papers on process in-
novation have been published in refereed journals (1996c, 1995b, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c,
1993a), book chapters (1995c), Harvard Business School Case Studies, and a range of practi-
tioner articles. His process innovation research evolved into the knowledge management
topic. Published work includes books (1998b, 1997a), refereed journal articles (1998a, com-
ing, 1996a, 1996b), refereed conference proceedings (1997b), and a large number of practi-
tioner articles. In addition, Professor Davenport has authored refereed conference proceed-
ings (1996d) and practitioner articles on ERP systems (1995d, 1998c). His recent book
Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know (1998b) includes exam-
ples of knowledge projects at companies such as British Petroleum, 3M, Mobil Oil, Hewlett-
Packard and consulting firms. In his journal article, “Some Principles of Knowledge Man-
agement” (1995a), Davenport describes knowledge management activities of professional
service firms and how these firms already have knowledge management roles in place.
“McKinsey, Andersen Consulting, Ernst and Young, Price Waterhouse, and A.T. Kearney all
have Chief Knowledge Officers (CKOs).” His other publications on knowledge management
in consulting firms include a practitioner article on Ernst and Young (1996e) and a Harvard
Business School Case Study on Andersen Consulting (1997c).
Consultant Engagement Success Factors - Approximately 10 years ago (1991b), Guy Gable
initiated a study of consultant engagement success factors (CESF) which represents inter-
disciplinary research aimed at better understanding client/consultant relations; the consultant
engagement process; the IT consulting industry; factors important to successful IT consulting
and management of IT consultants; and factors important to the successful export of IT con-
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
sulting services. The CESF study employed case study and survey methods to analyse 150
software package selection projects involving external consultants.
The proposed study builds on the CESF work, seeking to learn much about ERP knowledge
management in large consulting companies in particular. The proposed study and the ongoing
CESF study are symbiotic. The proposed study offers opportunity to extend and further ana-
lyse and integrate data and questions from the CESF study. The CESF study contributes in-
sights into the consulting process (1991a, 1991b, 1996, 1997); package software and con-
sulting services marketplace dynamics; the package selection process; the package imple-
mentation lifecycle; and mechanisms of client involvement, learning and knowledge transfer.
In order to evaluate the impact of knowledge management it will be necessary to address the
complex issue of how to measure ERP success. Of possible value is Gable’s measurement
model of client success when engaging external consultants, in which he identifies multiple
measures of success including ‘client independence’ through knowledge transfer (Gable
1996). His CESF study further identifies the client/consultant and client/vendor relationships
as being central to ultimate systems success (Gable 1997; Gable & Sharp 1992), and the im-
portance of client control (Gable 1991a).
Knowledge Links And Inter-Organizational Processes -More recent work by Scott and Gable
(1997) builds on Davenport’s and Gable’s prior findings, looking specifically at inter-
organizational ‘Knowledge Links’. Judy Scott’s prior study of industry/academe alliances
(Scott and Gable 1997), the impact of IT on organizational learning and knowledge (Scott
1996a, 1996b, 1996c, 1997), cross-functional and inter-organizational processes (1995) and
the business value of information (1994), lend directly to the study goals.
RESEARCH OBJECTIVES, QUESTIONS & EXPECTED OUTCOMES
Sapient College seek to aid SAP, its partners and clients in the region to further leverage and
increase the quality of their ERP expertise. SAP is pursuing improvements in ERP
Knowledge Management as a partial solution. Knowledge management emphasizes those
aspects of information management that require the corporate memory of an enterprise be
captured within the framework of a knowledge culture and in such a way that knowledge
builds upon an organised database infrastructure directed to enhance decision making and
planning (Broadbent 1997; Quintas et al 1997). Important areas of knowledge in relation to
the ERP lifecycle include: business processes, ERP customisation, organisation design,
organisation culture, IT infrastructure and architecture, project management and project
resources, and related key decisions and their rationale. An integrated ERP Life-cycle
Knowledge Management Framework taking account of the unique regional context and
spanning the key players, is expected to offer significant potential for improvement in ERP
life-cycle support. SAP’s market dominance and significant market influence present a
unique opportunity to encourage the adoption of such a framework.
Generally, the objectives of the study are to better understand what ERP knowledge exists
within key player organisations and to better understand what the three key players can do
about ERP knowledge. More specifically, the research aims to: (1) Facilitate reciprocal value
adding by SAP and its partners and clients to client R/3 implementations; (2) Develop a co-
operative framework for ERP knowledge management across SAP, its partners & its clients;
and (3) Diffuse “best practice” ERP knowledge management throughout SAP, its clients and
its consulting partners in the Australasian region.
Research Questions that follow from the context described preceding include: How can im-
provements in knowledge management contribute to ERP success? What ‘new’ knowledge
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
do clients and consultants require in a dynamic ERP environment? How can clients better
‘retain’ knowledge during ERP implementation? What respective roles can clients, consult-
ants and SAP play in capturing, transferring and managing this knowledge?
Expected outcomes of this study for ERP clients include: (1) Reduced costs of ERP imple-
mentation; (2) Increased independence with the installed ERP, (3) Increased satisfaction with
ERP implementations, (4) Improved ability to ‘evolve’ the installed ERP system in line with
a changing environment, and (5) Important prescriptions to firms adopting ERP on how to
introduce knowledge management practices in order to meet future organisational challenges.
Expected outcomes for Sapient College and its partners include: (1) Realignment and clear
definition of the three main players’ roles in R/3 implementation, (2) Revised Sapient College
curriculum and methods in line with the changing roles of key players, and (3) Revised Sapi-
ent College University Alliance members’ curriculums in sync with the evolving Sapient
College curriculum and strategy. Additionally, insights may point to development of software
tools or a knowledge management software architecture.
Expected research outcomes include: (1) A conceptual framework for interrelating knowl-
edge management concepts, tools, techniques and roles, (2) One of few empirical studies
linking knowledge management and organizational uptake of IT, (3) Attention to key re-
search concerns re the nature of underlying constructs of knowledge management, and (4) A
strengthened and broadened research relationship between the Information Systems Man-
agement Research Center (ISMRC) at Queensland University of Technology and Sapient
College and between Sapient College and other universities in Australia.
Ultimately the conceptual framework will serve as an aide in better anticipating and reacting
to a changing environment and to facilitate agreed levels of (1) client independence, (2) on-
going involvement of the implementation partner, and (3) ongoing support from SAP. The
study will account for key player knowledge management facilities, approaches and technol-
ogy; explore alternative responsibility and role sharing scenarios; define a broad system ar-
chitecture; and propose strategies to promote the framework across SAP, its clients and part-
ners. A main benefit to SAP is streamlined implementation and ultimately a larger market.

The research has national significance in that there is a dearth of ERP expertise in what has
become a global market with Australian talent being poached from abroad at a time when
Australia’s needs for ERP implementation assistance are perhaps at their greatest. Australia’s
demand for these implementation resources is expected to continue to grow for several years
as is the shortage of supply. Also, a small improvement in return on a $1B national invest-
ment in 1998 alone (R/3 related investment only) will be substantial. Further, Information
Technology support services is a significance source of export potential. A significant threat
to the position of the Australian IT services industry exists from strong competition now be-
ing mounted by IT consulting firms in the region. The ability to manage complex multi-
national relationships and to manage the successful uptake of IT is a critical issue.
THE RESEARCH PROPOSITIONS

The research is intended, in the early case study phases, to be broad, descriptive and ex-
ploratory, being constrained only in its focus on ERP Knowledge Management. Figure 1 fol-
lowing demonstrates the relationship between this early work and later, more confirmatory
work. Hypothesized model(s) and related specific hypotheses will be refined in phases 1
through 5. Broad propositions implicit in the preceding discussion include:
• clients don’t effectively capture vendor and consultant knowledge during implementation
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
• clients are suffering 'knowledge drain' during ERP implementation which is impairing the
installed ERP
• clients are unable to effectively evolve their ERP post-implementation due to ERP
knowledge drain
• Australia is suffering from serious ERP knowledge drain
• Australia's competitiveness and ability to reacte to a changing competitive environment is
constrained by static ERP installations
• clients and consultants pay insufficient attention to knowledge transfer in their RFPs and
proposals
• the vendor, in their quality control role, is not paying sufficient attention to the need for
knowledge transfer to the client from the vendor and from the consultant during ERP im-
plementation
• vendor education and training (Sapient College or in collaboration with universities and
other providers) does not address all relevant client knowledge requirements for imple-
mentation and beyond
• systematizing ERP knowledge management is complex and expensive and beyond the
capabilities of most individual clients
• vendors and consultants can aid clients to systematize their ERP knowledge management
• knowledge management is more beneficial when undertaken formally (Davenport 1998b)
• knowledge management projects are more likely to succeed when they change motiva-
tional practices (Davenport 1998b)
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The Study Approach essentially entails a longitudinal series of case studies of the three key
players preceded by a Delphi study of issues and perceptions and followed by a largely quan-
titative survey, employing the approach espoused in (Gable 1994). The 11 main phases of the
research are shown in figure 1. The team starts with strong knowledge and direct experience
of key referent topics areas.
Phase 1 – Refine Strategy and Study Context In this phase, SAP selected clients (including
FISB) and consultants will be identified for involvement in the study. No attempt has been
made to partner with a single consulting company, as this would obviate the involvement of
others. Early field research will consist of interviews with senior corporate and business unit
managers in SAP, FISB and selected implementation partners and will access other data
sources as required. The outcome will be a detailed project strategy.
Phase 2 – Delphi Study of ERP Implementation Issues and Perceived Knowledge Manage-
ment Potential - will be conducted in conjunction with annual SAP users conferences (Sap-
phire) in Australia and the USA, thereby taking advantage of these confluences’ of over
3,500 and 15,000 (respectively) SAP staff, clients and consulting partners. Issues identified
will help to further focus the research strategy and development of a pilot case study protocol.
Phase 3 – Pilot Case Study of SAP Knowledge Management Practices This pilot case study
has two main objectives: (1) to document SAP knowledge management activities and initia-
tives and interrelate these within a preliminary ERP knowledge management framework, and
(2) formalise a protocol based in the framework, for administration in the multiple case study.
Phase 4 – Multiple Case Study: Knowledge Management Practices of Key Players The pilot
case study will be extended and combined with further case studies of ERP knowledge man-
agement practices in selected SAP clients and implementation partners. A major objective of
this phase is, on the basis of results of the Delphi and pilot case studies, to focus on one or
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
more related, theory-based model(s) in support of the tripartite knowledge management
framework, for quantitative testing - e.g. Knowledge links as defined by Badaracco (1991).
Figure 1 - The Research Design
Phases 5, 6, 7 – Quantitative
Define
Data Collection In these phases
Research
1.
Question/
Strategy
Objectives
/Context &
the main survey instrument(s)
Literature
Research
Potentially
Context
Review
are refined and administered and
Important
Variables /
Relationships
2.
the study quantitative data are
Delphi
Study of
gathered, again drawing upon
Pilot Case
ERP Issues
Protocol
3.
Problems and
the perspectives of all three key
Pilot Case
Study of
Issues
SAP KM
players.
Pilot Case
Tested "Pattern"
Revised Case
Documentation
of Variables
Study Protocol
4.
File
Multiple Case
(early model)
Phase 8 – Report Descriptive
Study Clients &
Consultants
Tested "Pattern"
Multiple Case
Statistics A range of descriptive
of Variables
Documentation
5.
(early model)
File
Refine
and comparative findings will be
Conceptual
Model(s)
Hypothesised
produced and reported in Phase
Operationalise 6.
Model
8. Useful comparisons may be
Variables/
Instrument
Sruvey
Design
possible across the key players,
Instrument(s)
Conduct 7.
against prior studies and cross-
Survey
/sampling
countries.
Produce
8.
Descriptive
Survey Data
Phases 9, 10 – Testing In phases
Statistics
Descriptive
9
9 and 10 model constructs are
Statistics
Test
Construct
validated and model paths
Validity/
Reliability
Validated
tested. Interpretation of findings
Constructs
Test Models 10
And
may suggest variations from the
Hypotheses
Hypotheses
hypothesized model(s).
and Model
Test Results
Interpret and 11
Writeup
Implications for clients, SAP, Sapient
Phase 11 – Write-up Findings
Findings
College, Partners, Australian economy
& culture, Australian universities and
for further research
from data analysis will be inter-
Adapted from (Gable, 1994)
preted with all study
The
Implementa
Sapient
Framework
tion
College
Strategy
Strategy
stakeholders in mind. Analysis
and interpretation of findings
will report implications for: SAP client support; Sapient College strategy and curriculum;
consulting company ERP services strategy; implementation strategy for ERP clients; eco-
nomic implications for Australia; and ongoing research. Study findings will be published as
produced. Quarterly status reports will be produced for partners in the study.
RESEARCH QUALITY AND SIGNIFICANCE
The research is novel in that: (1) The team has unusual access to relatively sensitive data
from the cooperating vendor, consulting companies and their clients, through SAP’s substan-
tial market influence, (2) SAP and several of their implementation partners are at the fore-
front in related areas of current business practice (e.g. process management (BPR), knowl-
edge management, workflow), (3) ERP implementations tend to be highly structured, well
defined and well documented in order to manage the potentially substantial costs and com-
plexity. By studying a single package (R/3) the sample is relatively more homogeneous. Also,
R/3 by itself is a significant phenomenon in the marketplace, (4) The study seeks to leverage
an already strong teaching & learning alliance with industry into research, (5) The package
implementation process has been largely neglected to date and represents an important re-
search niche (this dearth and potential is espoused in (Gable et al 1997a, 1997b, Gable 1998),
(6) The process of packaged software implementation and support is inherently multi-
disciplinary and applied, both increasingly important research dimensions at ISMRC, nation-
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
ally and internationally, and (7) The research proposes to triangulate qualitative and quantita-
tive findings through a multi-method (Gable 1994) involving multiple methods of data col-
lection, multiple sources of data, multiple methods of analysis and multiple perspectives in
analysis and interpretation (a multidisciplinary team).
The proposed research will advance our knowledge of the structure, formation and develop-
ment processes of knowledge management for ERP life-cycle support. The study will gather
detailed evidence not previously available. It will provide novel insights into the problem of
introducing ERP Knowledge Management practices to organisations and will propose a tri-
partite framework for sharing roles and responsibilities across the three key players.
The research has national significance. The Karpin Report, titled Enterprising Nation (1994)
critiqued management practice in Australia and highlighted 8 critical skills for Australian
Managers, including: intra- and inter-organisation relationship building skills, and the ability
to leverage diverse human resources. The report also suggested that these skills were below
world best practice. This research seeks to address intra- and inter-organisation knowledge
management capabilities in a significant component of the economy: the engagement of
software vendors and external consultants to provide for improved IT solutions.
Further, the Australian IT and Telecommunications industry accounts for 26 Billion dollars
of expenditure. Many of these projects are not completed to time and budget. Many of these
projects involve packaged software and are being managed by consultancy houses. Any im-
provement in the completion of these projects must significantly alter the profitability of
firms involved and ultimately the economic prosperity of the nation. This work will improve
relations between the client, consultant and vendor. It will lead to fewer communication
problems and clearer identification of potential problems. It will suggest remedial action to
be taken. Australian organisations will benefit from the availability of a model for ERP life-
cycle Knowledge Management that has been instantiated in the Australian context and cir-
cumstances. While findings are expected to be particularly valuable to organisations imple-
menting R/3 and other ERP, the tripartite knowledge management framework is expected to
have value for other types of systems and the complete range of a consulting firm’s services.
The study will identify and make recommendations for the transfer of ‘best practice’ ERP
knowledge management practices from around the globe to Australian subsidiaries; Identify
limitations of current ERP knowledge management practices; Identify methods of introducing
‘best practice’ ERP knowledge management into Australian organisations, thereby addressing
the serious ERP resource shortage plaguing the country; Produce recommendations regarding
the recruitment of consultants with appropriate experience to take on demanding roles re-
quired in transforming organisations and managing and transferring knowledge; Provide
clear staff development objectives for improving knowledge management skills of vendor,
client and consultant staff; and Facilitate better matching of expertise with ERP projects.
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Proceedings of the Ninth Australasian Conference on Information Systems, 29 September – 2 October 1998, Sydney, Australia, pp.227-240
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10/12

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